Beth Hoff Blackmer later moved 15 miles west to this small community. As she explains, “I had a good run in the 2000s, made it through the recession, and now sales have nearly caught up to where they were in 2007.
When your rental store is near not one but several ski resorts, the business landscape can be categorized as a “bit different.” No, you still rent similar equipment to the same types of customers as other rental stores, but that’s where the commonality ends for Aspen Rent-All Inc., in Basalt, CO.
Beth Hoff Blackmer purchased the business from her dad, Dave Hoff, in 1999, a store he had opened in Aspen more than 30 years earlier. She later moved 15 miles west to this small community. As she explains, “I had a good run in the 2000s, made it through the recession, and now sales have nearly caught up to where they were in 2007.
“This is a different, wealthy market. We don’t have a lot of DIYers here. Instead, we have homeowners who can afford to hire contractors to build new, even more impressive homes or remodel the ones they have. Just this past week, we rented equipment to one customer constructing a basement theatre and another who wanted a telehandler to install an in-house four-lane bowling alley.”
Because of all the remodeling and reconstruction, Hoff Blackmer’s store rents its share of earthmoving, demolition, and other construction equipment, which represents approximately 65 percent of sales; general tools make up the remainder. As attractive and different as it is, the market is not without its challenges.
“Housing is so expensive here that workers, including contractors and our employees, are forced to live 30 to 45 minutes from here,” she explains. “For contractors, that means they start their day early and so do we, opening at 6:30 a.m. Fortunately, our store is located on the main highway to Aspen, which makes it convenient for them.
“The high cost of living translates into higher wages, too. We start new employees between $16 and $17 an hour and go up from there for those with some experience. Other issues, such as higher freight costs and the fact we’re a small business that can’t purchase in volume, requires us to charge more for rentals than stores in other parts of the country. One of the members of the peer group I’m in is in wine country where the cost of living is also high. Comparing notes helps.”
Blackmer emphasizes she has a great team, including two technicians who work on large and small equipment and a shop manager. During the busy season, from Easter through Thanksgiving, her store employs upwards of 12 people and backs down to half that number during the slow first quarter.
That change of pace isn’t all that bad for this owner, a former downhill ski racer, who then can take the opportunity to enjoy the mountains.